The Healing Blog

Inspiring Zen-based Healing Messages from Kendo, posted Every Month, coinciding with the Distance Healing Ceremony

Kendo’s Healing Message for May

We are undeniably living in unprecedented times, as so many of our usual freedoms are currently restricted. Of course, we all understand the benefit of complying – limiting the spread of a potentially lethal virus – but, in keeping with his philosophy of looking for the gift in any challenge, Kendo would encourage us to be ‘aware’ of more than just social distancing.

In Japanese Buddhism, the incorporated world-view of Shinto is as sensitive to nature as British Paganism, and this is central to what Kendo teaches about understanding and being sensitive to our place in the world and the universe. We are in no way separate from nature and all our actions affect it, just as it affects us, and perhaps now is the time to become more sensitive to this relationship.

One global effect of so many of us staying at home has been a huge improvement in air quality, both at ground level and in the sky. The sun has been brighter at the start of this May than many of us can ever recall, because there is so little upper atmosphere pollution from aircraft. And with far fewer hydrocarbon-burning vehicles on the roads, most countries have vastly exceeded their air pollution-reduction targets in incredibly short time-frames. This is good for nature, and consequently, can only be good for us, but most of us were not appreciably aware of the extent of the harm we were causing just by taking advantage of what’s available to us.

This positive side-effect amidst our current restrictions has granted us a glimpse of how awareness in this moment can be a catalyst for entirely positive and permanent change.

When the internal combustion engine was developed, it was always known that they produce poisonous exhausts, but that negative side-effect was glossed-over in comparison to how incredibly useful they were – on balance, of course we were going to take advantage of the technology. Ultimately, some human habitats became toxic because of them, so legislation was developed to make car engines cleaner, but because there is an ever-growing number of people using them, we will inevitably reach toxic levels again.

Likewise, we have not yet directly felt pressing consequences from upper atmosphere pollution, but it has been reported that global warming is a major effect of air travel. It is gradual and invisible, and nothing has yet forced us to be aware of it, but should we just carry on with only a dim awareness and easy dismissal that aircraft pollute, without caring until we are forced to? Sir David Attenborough has warned that we are perilously close to warming the earth so much that all the methane from thawing permafrost will be released, which will be irreversibly catastrophic.

Bearing in mind that the international holiday industry is going to be limited for the foreseeable future, shouldn’t we now think twice about the consequences of air travel for tourism? Are two or three international flights per year really justifiable? Shouldn’t our vacation decisions inevitably include concern over how much they would pollute?

In speaking of his forthcoming documentary, ‘A Life on Our Planet’, it is unsurprising that Sir David Attenborough speaks much about pollution, and his final words about what we can all do were that we should “stop waste”, of any kind, including power, food, plastics, and more. His message in the movie is uncharacteristically hard-hitting, and this can only be because he seeks to stress the urgency of our situation.

Now that we have all experienced several weeks of coping with social limitations, we should emerge in an enlightened way – not by rushing back into the old polluting, wasteful ‘normal’, but by seeking to use what we have learned to apply restraint to our impact upon nature going forward. The industrial revolution gave us enhanced capabilities and convenience, but in eagerly grasping those powers we weren’t sufficiently sophisticated to question the consequences of the associated pollution and waste; that time has now passed – Kendo counsels that this moment must be the catalyst for living in full awareness of the consequences of all our actions.

The Buddhist maxim is perhaps more pertinent now than it has ever been – Be The Best You Can Be (and the most enlightened and globally considerate), for the benefit of your family, your society, the whole of nature, and thereby the whole world.

Kendo’s Healing Message for April

Retreat Cherry Blossom 2020

 

Kendo would remind us that in Japanese Buddhism, the pure, simple beauty of the Japanese cherry blossom has been meditated and reflected upon for many centuries, and that at this difficult time for so many of us, it is more profound than ever for us all.

The cherry blossom’s brief appearance every spring is an exquisite gift from nature which cannot fail to enchant us and lift our hearts, as it reminds us that we are also a part of the essential natural energy which is capable of creating something so beautiful.

Unfortunately, it is all too easy to become distracted by practical, technological, and social matters and we can lose sight of some of the fundamental benevolence and beauty around us, but the appearance of the cherry blossom is so captivating that it can cut through the everyday mental noise and re-awaken that appreciation within us.

Each and every beautiful cherry blossom flower can be thought of as representing an NHS worker – their selfless, courageous, tireless dedication to our well-being in these incredibly difficult times for them is an astonishing, humbling demonstration of benevolence by all those beautiful souls, to whom we owe so much.

The almost overwhelming beauty of a multitude of cherry blossoms can remind us of how we could be as a whole society, with the right attitude of mind, and the way we are responding together now shows that such co-operation and mutual support does come naturally; as Boris Johnson remarked, there is such a thing as society, and it can indeed be beautiful.

And for all those who have so sadly lost loved ones during the current crisis, cherry blossoms can be an inspiration. The blossoms in the Retreat’s Anniversary Orchard are about to leave us for another year, but their gift to us is the memory of their beauty, which is timeless. Having lost a loved one unexpectedly or before their time is tragic, but when we have grieved, we should often recall everything beautiful that they brought to our lives.

With the right perspective it’s clear that all the hardships, losses, and challenges that we are currently facing are actually revealing their counterparts – positivity, selflessness, and benevolence; just a moment’s meditation on that most exquisite gift from nature, the cherry blossom, can help us reach that uplifting, inspiring perspective.

Kendo’s Healing Message for March

How can we be the best we can be? Kendo tells us it begins with awareness – the choice to consider the quality of what we give and, perhaps surprisingly, what we receive.

Kendo counsels that it is wise to be mindful of what you allow into your essential self – It has been said that it is a mistake to give anyone else the power to adversely affect your feelings, but when you think about it, wouldn’t it be great to be immune to unfair criticism and even deliberate spoken or written cruelty? In these days of so very many people taking advantage of the opportunity to be outspoken on social media, we are likely to find ourselves the target of someone’s criticism. This could be as a result of our politics, our gender, our religion, our education, our nationality, and even falsehoods and ‘fake news’ – all such criticism is unfair but it’s out there and is sometimes all too easy to find. But how can we let it simply wash over us and fall away without it adversely affecting us? The answer is Zen, and particularly Zen through Kyu Shin Do.

As long as we’re trying to be good people, the beliefs we hold will naturally be moderate and pro-social, and therefore they won’t deserve unfair criticism just because they differ from someone else’s. Zen shows us that under such circumstances we don’t have to feel offended or become defensive – we just have to ‘know’ that those aspects of our ‘selves’ are good – moderate and pro-social. It’s not even necessary to wonder why someone else may want to be critical of us – what they think is their business, and if it’s negative, that too can be left with them, without us taking it on board. That is the kind of awareness of which Kendo speaks – discriminating between what is worth ‘allowing in’ to our essential selves and what should be allowed to ‘fall away’.

This is a level of discrimination which doesn’t necessarily come naturally – it has to be discovered, meditated-upon, and practised, because there are many other souls who can teach and enlighten us by illustrating other perspectives – we should always be open to learning and improving ourselves. But at the same time, we need to know when to disengage with unhelpful ‘input’, and ‘walk away’ with our balance undisturbed.

Practising such care with what we allow into our essential selves will naturally affect the quality of what we share – positively. By becoming immune to negativity, and therefore not engaging with it, we will only contribute to positive interactions, and because we will have naturally risen above taking offence or needing to retaliate to negativity, our own energy will not have been disturbed or diluted from making only the most positive contributions.

So, when you meditate, place yourself at that centre of Zen peace, allow all things to have a little distance from you in a Kyu Shin Do orbit around you (and include both external things as well as all aspects of your ‘self’), and allow your silent, wise, intuitive self to guide you regarding the things you can change for the better, and how to be at peace with those things you can’t change.

It would be nice if the world was always a nice place, but rising to its challenges is the foundation of how we grow and improve. It has been argued that negativity is a necessary evil for just that reason, but meditation and discrimination as described by Kendo can show us how to be unharmed by negativity, and become a naturally powerful agent for positivity.

Kendo’s Healing Message for February

Kendo has long advised that it’s meeting challenges that really helps us to grow – when faced with a conundrum we have to find a solution, even in those circumstances when reason doesn’t seem to help… Then, the intuitive self must be recruited and listened-to.

Perhaps one of the most challenging areas of life is other people. Our friends are great – people who think in similar ways to us, people who are supportive and contribute to whatever we do; consequently, our friends enrich our lives, they make all the good stuff go further and wider such that we have a wonderfully positive feeling of community, shared well-being, and shared positive goals.

However, by being part of the ‘solution’, our friends don’t challenge us. As comedian Bill Bailey once wrote in one of his comedy songs about teenage angst, “How can I feel pain when you’re being so supportive?”!

Of course, the practicalities of life throw up plenty of their own challenges, not least of which is finding our own peace of mind amidst the many demands on us, and in order to be the best we can be it is our duty to find the ways and make the arrangements necessary to do this (hint: meditate – Zen through Kyu Shin Do!).

But, Kendo advises that there is an ancient philosophical approach to karma which actively looks for challenges. It could be compared to asking for extra homework – which may seem masochistic, but since human life itself could be described as a constant learning journey, in both aspects of the comparison extra study always pays off.

Which brings us back to people. The old adage about ‘not judging’ is a good starting point, but it’s passive inasmuch as it’s possible to just leave things there and not consider another person’s position any further, or how you may be able to contribute to each other’s lives. Differences which may challenge us are wide-ranging, from culture to religion to work to leisure interests to sports, and more, but particularly motivation. For example, why would someone want to do harm? Why would someone want to ‘troll’? Why is someone apparently argumentative?

Kendo advises that the challenge is to avoid thinking that someone else is just ‘wrong’, or ‘unpleasant’, or ‘malicious’, but to appreciate that there are reasons behind all human actions. We are unlikely to ever know the background to someone else’s motivations, and it’s acknowledging this ‘not-knowing’ that can help us give others space, without judging them.

Kendo counsels that judging is inappropriate because it’s a rational device used to ‘close the door’ on something, thereby ending the opportunity for broader understanding. The ‘best person we can be’ is always open to broader understanding, which will lead to open-ness, which will lead to the potential for building bridges with people we might otherwise shut out, and it would be a shame to miss out on finding common understanding which may not have been immediately apparent.

Someone may be malicious because they have been wounded in the past, and giving them the ‘cold shoulder’ won’t give them any reason to view the world more favourably. Someone may seem argumentative because they have a completely different style of thinking, and disengaging with them won’t help either of you make the most of possibilities discussed together. Kendo recommends that beyond ‘not judging’, be open to your intuitive self for ways of keeping channels open between yourself and others; such altruism will inevitably help unite rather than divide, and you may even make some surprising new friends, thus broadening your enlightened community.

Kendo’s Healing Message for January

At the Retreat, the New Year’s weather has so far been surprisingly mild, very different to previous years – there has barely been a frost at all this winter and the roads haven’t even had to be salted yet this January. While this not-unwelcome break from the season’s usual biting chill has helped to somewhat kick-start our New Year’s optimism, it’s unfamiliarity is disconcerting, and rightly so.

Part of what Kendo teaches is that just because we can reason and rationalise and justify our actions, that doesn’t separate us from the ‘big picture’ of nature; true health and wellbeing spring from a sympathetic and holistic relationship with the whole of the natural world around us, of which we are inextricably a part. That’s the ‘subjective’ aspect, at which any enlightened person will arrive, but there is also an objective ‘bigger picture’ of increasingly pressing importance.

The Shinto aspect of Kendo’s holistic Zen philosophy illustrates that it’s a two-way street and that there’s more to an aware life than remembering our place in nature – humanity depends so much upon nature that we cannot survive without us ensuring that it is healthy and respected, and that’s going to require some enhanced awareness from us. When the internal combustion engine became more widely available we were never warned that its exhausts could reach toxic proportions and contribute significantly to warming the climate; when plastics became available as packaging we were never warned that they could not be digested by nature and that they would end up choking it; the ‘consumer’ blamelessly adopted the convenience of these inventions, but the consequences of their wide-spread use are now evident, and an example of the kind of forward thinking that we need to adopt.

Kendo suggests that for this New Year we all adopt a resolution of always being aware of the consequences of all our actions – not just on other people, but on nature itself. He accepts that of course we can’t all immediately buy electric cars or suddenly reject all foods packaged in plastic, but by being aware of how we use our modern conveniences, that conscientiousness will grow into progressively less harmful consequences of our lives, for which nature will reward us.

Whatever challenges we face, we still have a responsibility to the world around us, to people and to nature itself; Kendo points out that the ever-more refined awareness of how we live is a group consciousness which will support us all, as we support each other. We will all be doing the right thing by living aware lives and ‘paying it forward’ to the benefit of our future selves and our children. This is truly being the best we can be, for our families and communities and all our futures.

Kendo’s Healing Message for December

As the festive season comes round again, we have good reason to celebrate that it is the season for giving, because, as Kendo points out, perhaps the most important aspect of that is the giving of hope.

The ‘Kendo’s New Horizons’ project is moving ahead well, with more and more willing participants coming forward to offer support for our new day-care centre for adults with learning disabilities, and we’re finding that the reputation of Kendo’s work to empower others is gaining ever-wider appreciation.

This week the Foundation team attended the Christmas lunch of the ‘Good Turns Society’, a wonderful organisation set up by the late, great Sir Ken Dodd which raises funds for multiple good causes. It was a spectacular event, hosted as ever by the inimitable Ricky Tomlinson, with incredible entertainment and the perennial astonishing atmosphere of heart-warming good humour.

Through his Zen approach to life, Kendo has long advocated casting-off stress because whatever challenges we face, it only makes things seem and feel darker. He subscribes to the maxim that “laughter is the best medicine”, especially when it’s combined with peace of mind – how else could the man behind the mask be the vehicle for Kendo’s Zen works as well as tell such outrageous tales about Les Kellett, Mike, Marino, and Big Daddy in his book?!?

In the spirit of the season, the Kendo Nagasaki Foundation thanks all at the Good Turns Society for a wonderful event, great company, and continuing to remind us that taking a light-hearted approach to life is immensely healing, especially when good people of good humour join together to help others. Peter pays tribute to the late, great Sir Ken Dodd and to Lady Anne Dodd for so ably continuing his generous charitable legacy.

Whatever challenges you may face during this festive season, be of good cheer and reassured and encouraged by the fact that there are good-hearted people working ever-more closely together to help you.
 
PT+Lady-Anne-Dodd

Kendo’s Healing Message for November

In seeking to communicate the benefits of Zen peace to as many people as possible, Kendo would like to illustrate how universally positive ‘letting everything fall away’ can be.

This month marks the 55th anniversary of Kendo’s appearance, and on this occasion he is pleased to announce his Foundation’s new project, ‘Kendo’s New Horizons’, which will provide a Day Centre for adults with learning disabilities and autism, a sector with much need but little provision. Of course, adopting or practising Zen is not a requirement for attending, but the Nagasaki Retreat is built upon a foundation of complete peace which is why it is such a calming and healing place, and simply being in this environment could be of particular help to the many adults with what used to be known as Asperger’s Syndrome or ‘High-Functioning Autism’, now known as Autism Spectrum Disorder Level 1, or ASD1.

ASD1 is a complex variation of the human condition where there are often high levels of stress and anxiety linked to the hard work required for such people to function in social situations which they find challenging – this is often referred to as ‘masking’. It’s like being required to constantly ‘act’, following ‘scripts’ of learned responses for social interactions. Many ASD1 people have described masking as being absolutely exhausting, but a fortunate few who have found meditation have been able to let their stress and anxiety go and have a much better quality of life.

The numbers of autism diagnoses is rising all the time – it’s now thought to affect one in every 64 people but more and more adults are now being diagnosed – and Kendo’s simple and elegant ‘way of peace’ has already helped those who are ‘on the spectrum’.

Kendo has long advocated de-stressing because it allows us to see everything more clearly and ‘be ourselves’ more easily; stress and anxiety are obstacles to ‘being the best we can be’ and allowing our innate abilities to fully express themselves, and finding a way to let them go is positive on every level.

The current emphasis on mental health is an extremely progressive step for society as a whole, and finding peace amidst our own challenges is very helpful and healing for everyone, but particularly for those who find everyday interactions a challenge, such as those with social anxiety or ASD1. As the demands on us all increase in intensity and complexity, Zen peace can provide an extremely welcome way to feel empowered and productive and included.

As ever, Kendo seeks to inspire, empower, and heal. Whatever your situation, Kendo reminds you that taking a few minutes apart from your challenges and mindfully breathing deeply and slowly whilst visuaising your cares and worries falling away will be immensely healing to you; then you will naturally be the best you can be, which will benefit all those around you, and ultimately the whole of our society.

Kendo’s Healing Message for October

Is something in particular bothering you? Really bothering you, to the extent that it’s on your mind all the time, but you still have no solution?

There’s an old saying which goes, “If you can’t get out of it, get into it”, which sounds like true ‘motivational speaker’ stuff, but how can becoming even more mentally preoccupied with something help you? Isn’t the mind a limited thing which doesn’t even know when it’s out of its depth? Aren’t you supposed to let everything mind-based fall away?

Those who meditate already will know the answers to these questions, but Kendo has a technique which encourages both your mind and your intuition to work together on solving those really knotty problems. It still requires meditation of course, but it’s how you build up to it that matters.

Prepare for meditation in the usual way and begin to let your thoughts fall away, but make sure your big problem is the last thing to let go of, along with a confidence affirmation that your intuitive self will come to your aid – then meditate.

This process gives rise to a kind of synergy which brings multiple levels of your ‘self’ together; it’s a cross between meditation and mindfulness, whereby you enter your meditation whilst mindfully surrendering your problem. Your intuition will recognise this and deliver wisdom with its own unique reflections on the problem. It will actually do this on levels which haven’t even occurred to your more basic friend, your conscious mind.

Kendo observes that any kind of meditation is extremely good for your total well-being, but if something has been really bugging you, try this way. You can be confident that your intuitive self will always guide you well.

Kendo’s Healing Message for September

As Kendo makes clear, the need to still the mind is paramount, principally to let go of all the thoughts and wordless concerns that can distract us from living our lives wisely. In some ways this is a paradox – stepping away from the mind yet being ‘mindful’? There is an explanation…

Kendo has already said that one’s minds is one’s friend, especially when applied to ‘mind’ things, like navigating the everyday practicalities that routinely arise. Conversely, he’s also said that it’s important not to resort to the mind for things where it’s out of its depth, such as our feelings, and especially the deeper stuff, such as what we should do with our lives and what kind of person we are seeking to be. Those are definitely beyond the limits of the mind.

Kendo has, of course, counselled that meditation is the gateway to the kind of wisdom which sheds light on those deeper aspects of life, but for those who already meditate he has another approach – being mindful about the mind.

Visitors to the Nagasaki Retreat are introduced to various concepts that help put the mind into a better perspective, everything from ‘suspending disbelief’ in what Zen peace can do for you to visualising the many symbolisms of the eastern horizon; these ‘tools’ use the mind to open the mind to understanding how to be part of a team – you, your mind, and your intuition. And now he’d like to introduce a central practice of that team-work – discrimination.

Discrimination, done right, is not just an algorithm or a mechanistic approach – it is a wise position to apply to the mind to help it regognise when to ask the intuition for input. ‘Meditate on it’ is a phrase often heard, but this practice describes the highest form of discrimination. The greatest, deepest, most challenging problems in life should definitely be meditated on, and if you have that ‘light-bulb’ moment of realising that wise guidance is available to you when your mind and intuition team-up, reason through things as well as enabling your intuitive self with meditation, you’ll have used all your resources in the best possible way, and you will know what to do and how to do it.

Kendo’s ‘enlightened discrimination’ is one of his most powerful mind-tools, and by using it, all the aspects of your self will make a great team and you’ll certainly be the best you can be, to the benefit of your family and community.

What are you waiting for?! Practise enlightened discrimination from now on, and you’ll really make a positive difference in your own life and for all those around you.

Kendo’s Healing Message for August

This healing message is a little more advanced…

Kendo wants to illustrate the differences between mental activity and meditation, for example, trying to think your way to a place of complete peace as opposed meditating your way there – the nature of the experiences and the outcomes are so very different…

You’ll be familiar with the meditation guidance to let your thoughts fall away until you’re in a place of pure, inspiring peace, but have you tried achieving this with just your mind? It’s a bit of a struggle but it’s worth trying to show how poor the mind alone is at giving you answers to profound problems.

This can be done with a philosophical device called a thought experiment, whereby you ‘think’ yourself into a situation. Let’s use a thought experiment to let everything fall away…

In full consciousness, imagine that you are not bothered by any of the things that would normally annoy you, be they experiences or situations. Then extend that to not being concerned with any responsibilities, such as your job or having to pay bills. This means not having a house to live in or any means of support, but your mind can imagine never being hungry or cold. Then imagine yourself not having to interact with any people, but being away from strangers means no friends or family either. Now you’re totally alone with nothing and nowhere to be – how does that feel? Probably not good…

If you’ve got this far, it’s wise to reverse the process and remind yourself that you do have friends and family and a home and food and drink and a life, all of which brings you back to a comforting reality! But having survived this unsettling journey, you’re no wiser.

In meditation, you’re not using the basic tools of the mind to ‘construct’ peace, you’re briefly stepping away from those clunky and basic mechanisms to let a deeper and wiser voice wordlessly bring you wisdom – your intuition. It’s Kendo’s wisdom that gives you this concept and process so you can be all that your mind is, but much more too if you accept its limitations and enable your wiser self by occasionally stepping away from mere rationalising.

The idea is both an irony and a Zen koan – convince the mind that it’s a good thing not to use it, by choice, occasionally! The proof is that this apparently non-rational (- irrational?) process works so well.

Your mind is definitely your friend, and while it’s always a good thing to educate and refine and challenge it for answers, it’s essential to understand that it’s a specialist only in the field of mental things. Your emotional and intuitive selves need to be granted space for self-expression and growth too, and part of evolving into a whole, well-rounded person means knowing when to ask the mind to take a back seat for a while, occasionally. All the aspects of your ‘self’ shouldn’t be dominated by just one – they should be co-operating as friends and partners in pursuit of the best person that you can be, and meditation is central to achieving the balance that leads to that evolution.

Meditate on that!